Anna has taken a first step of his long journey
Colonel Anil Athale (retd)
A powerful campaign has been launched against social activist Anna Hazare and the movement he led. ‘Anti-democratic’, ‘fascist’ are some of the adjectives hurled at him. There is a less than subtle attempt to paint him a Hindu fundamentalist, writes Colonel Anil Athale (retd).
The first salvo has already been fired by a central minister saying that the Lokpal will not solve the problems of poor people, such as lack of food, health support or education!
Every poor person knows that he has to pay a bribe to get his Below Poverty Line card and authorised rations at a subsidised price. The poor are not idiots and can see through the charade of leaders who try to portray corruption as an issue only for the middle classes.
Some commentators have criticised this movement as anti-democratic since it has ‘insulted’ the Constitution and violated the ‘sovereignty’ of Parliament. Suggesting changes is not an insult to the Constitution, as some misguided people have been led to believe (who went on to stone the house of one of the supporters of the movement).
The Constitution is open to change and has been amended at least 60 times! Creation of new institutions under the very Constitution is not an insult but strengthening of the Constitution.
It is amusing to see educated people talking of ‘sovereignty’ of Parliament! In Indian scheme of things Parliament is a creature of the Constitution and not sovereign like the British Parliament. In any case, the anti-corruption movement is asking that very Parliament to enact a law to deal with corruption. The feigned insult by politicians is entirely misplaced.
Some elected representatives have also questioned the ‘self-appointed’ leaders right to speak for the people since they claim monopoly of that. A simple calculation in our ‘first past the post’ and winner-takes-all system will show how hollow this claim is.
On an average around 60 people people vote and in multi-cornered contests (which is the norm) the winner seldom gets more than 40 to 45 per cent of the votes cast. This would mean that our elected representatives in reality are supported by just 25 per cent of the total electorate.
Or put the other way round, close to 75 per cent people are against the ‘elected’ leader. Yes, this is an issue of electoral reforms that needs to be addressed, but suffice it to say that elected representatives should be little more humble when they lay sole claim to speak for people.
Even more laughable is a comment made in a leading newspaper in its op-ed columns this week. The worthy author opposes a ‘Lokpal-like’ institution by claiming that this will lead to delays in project implementation!
Does this worthy want bridges or roads by corrupt with more sand than cement? The whole world saw how the over-bridge built during the infamous Commonwealth Games collapsed within a day of construction!
The point at issue is not this rubbish dished out by a columnist, but that a national daily thought it fit to publish it! Just goes to show how strong the corrupt lobby is.
The bureaucracy and politician nexus that is running scared of Anna’s movement and the Lokpal Bill have been giving the argument that corruption and greed is part of human psyche. Many years ago, another prime minister of our country had dismissed the anti-corruption movement by saying that ‘Corruption is a global phenomenon’. We all know what happened a few years later.
Chanakya in his Arthashastra says that finding out whether an official of the king who is looking after the treasure is stealing from it or not is as difficult as finding out if at any given moment a fish is drinking water!
The obstacles are indeed formidable. Public memory is short. An appeal of a former chief minister convicted in a case is pending for the last 10 years? In a new trick, to delay the legal process the police have taken to submitting chargesheets that run into tens of thousands of pages!
Another trick that is being practiced is to give a list of thousands of witnesses. Begin this process at the lowest judicial level and rest assured the charged individual will die a natural death before his case is finally disposed off.
In the meanwhile, under the pretext of ‘case still pending’ he continues to enjoy normal life and his ill-gotten gains, becomes a minister and lives happily till death!
If people are today demanding that corruption cases be decided in two years is it fascist?
Finally, as an ex-armyman, the author is indeed proud of what a former soldier such as Hazare has achieved. The civil society ought to at least look at the armed forces for controlling corruption.
Sure there have been quite a few cases of corruption that have come to light as regards armed forces personnel. But the crucial difference between these and politico-bureaucratic corruption is swift trial and deterrent punishment!
Be it the Tehelka scam, Sukna scam or others, the guilty have been tried and punished! While on the civic street an actor convicted of keeping an illegal weapon and sentenced to six years roams around free — on an indefinite bail!
In 1947, we think we got independence but the world and the British called it ‘transfer of power’. To date we continue to use the provisions of the Telegraph Act of 1885 or Defence of India Rules of 1942 or even the Official Secrets Act of 1923!
It is time to begin the second independence movement, and Anna has taken the first step on this long journey.
Colonel Anil Athale (retd), is coordinator of Initiative for Peace and Disarmament, Pune.
Excerpts from article on rediff.com at http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-anna-has-taken-the-first-step-in-his-journey/20110415.htm